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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
President Obama Attacks Trump; Sources Say FBI Has Kicked Off Investigation Into What Shooter's Wife Knew. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired June 14, 2016 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
It is, as so many things we have told you about this election cycle, seemingly unprecedented, the president today taking to the East Room of the White House to essentially that, in his view, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, is a threat to the nation.
Now, Mr. Obama did not use those words, but that was his clear message. Sources close to the president tell CNN that the speech reflects the following concerns of the president, one, the president's belief that the major challenge that the U.S. faces regarding terrorism right now is that ISIS is making a deliberate effort to promote self-radicalization here in the U.S., and, two, that, therefore, embracing approaches such that of Donald Trump, in the president's view, ones the stigmatize and alienate Muslims broadly, that that's the worst thing we, as a nation, can do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims with a broad brush and imply that we are at war with an entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists' work for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, in addition to the president's concerns about religious liberties, sources tell CNN that the president has privately expressed in more stark terms his concern that Trump's rhetoric and policy proposals might drive an alienated young Muslim American down the wrong path.
Now, much of this section of the speech, the president wrote last night and this morning with aides. Yesterday afternoon, he decided to deliver the speech, sources tell CNN, after Donald Trump made his national security speech in New Hampshire, sources saying that the president was bothered that many in the political world just seemed to accept that this is the new norm, casually accepting the besmirching of the entire Muslim community.
And we're going to explore all angles of this speech, including Mr. Trump's response. But let's begin with CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, who's here with me in Washington.
Dana, an extraordinary speech from the president.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely.
Jake, you and I have spent the last six months together during primary and caucus nights this election season marking big moments in the 2016 campaign. This was one of those moments, no question about it. It's the day that the president of the United States tried to come out and change the Trump narrative.
And I'm told also, like you are, Jake, that Mr. Obama was absorbing all that Donald Trump said yesterday afternoon about Muslims, and that he expressed to his aides that he wanted to come out and say something. The result today was months, in his case, maybe even years of pent-up frustration watching and listening to Donald Trump.
OBAMA: We are now seeing how dangerous this kind of mind-set and this kind of thinking can be.
BASH (voice-over): A rhetorical explosion, rare for any president, especially one who prides himself on keeping calm.
OBAMA: We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States to bar all Muslims from emigrating to America. We hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complicit in violence.
Where does this stop?
BASH: Tearing into Donald Trump with visible anger and disgust.
OBAMA: That's not the America we want. It does not reflect our democratic ideals. It won't make us more safe. It will make us less safe.
BASH: The power of his words amplified by the stagecraft, a commander in chief coming out of a counterterrorism briefing standing with his top military officer, a four-star general.
OBAMA: We have gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear, and we came to regret it. We don't have religious tests here. Our founders, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights are clear about that.
And if we ever abandon those values, we would not only make it a lot easier to radicalize people here and around the world, but we would have betrayed the very things we are trying to protect.
BASH: And what really got him going, the GOP refrain that he's weak on terrorism because he refuses to use the term radical Islam. OBAMA: There has not been a moment in my 7.5 years as president where
we have not able to pursue a strategy because we didn't use the label radical Islam.
Not once has an adviser of mine said, man, if we use that phrase, we are going to turn this whole thing around, not once.
So someone seriously thinks that we don't know who we are fighting?
BASH: All that as the candidate Obama endorsed delivered a more measured version of the same message.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is fixated on the words radical Islam. Now, I must say, I find this strange. Is Donald Trump suggesting that there are magic words that, once uttered, will stop terrorists from coming after us?
BASH: Hillary Clinton continues to use Trump's response to the Orlando massacre to define him as too volatile for the White House.
CLINTON: Yesterday morning, just one day after the massacre, he went on TV and suggested that President Obama is on the side of the terrorists.
CLINTON: Now, just think about that for a second. Even in a time of divided politics, this is way beyond anything that should be said by someone running for president of the United States.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BASH: Now, both Hillary Clinton and President Obama were quite deliberate in not just going after Trump, but putting the onus on the Republican rank and file and leadership to decide whether they support Trump rhetoric and prescriptions, knowing full well that most don't.
So, Jake, politically speaking only here, it is a good thing for Democrats trying to unite to continue to push open the divide with the Republican Party.
TAPPER: And a lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill now just refusing to answer any questions...
BASH: They won't go there.
TAPPER: ... about their own party nominee. Dana Bash, thanks so much.
It didn't take long for Mr. Trump to fire back, of course. He called President Obama's priorities into question.
CNN political reporter Sara Murray is live in Greensboro, North Carolina, where Mr. Trump will speak shortly.
Sara, so, Mr. Trump has come under criticism from many in his own party for his proposed temporary ban on Muslims entering the country and his comments about President Obama, but it seems like he's not backing down at all.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Jake.
It hasn't just been the Muslim ban. It's also been Donald Trump sort of suggesting in recent days that maybe President Obama sympathizes with Islamic extremists. And he put out a statement today in response to President Obama in which he says -- Trump says: "President Obama claims to know our enemy, and yet he continues to prioritize our enemy over our allies and, for that matter, the American people. When I am president, it will always be America first."
Now, Trump hasn't exactly clarified what he means when he's saying that President Obama is putting our enemy ahead of our allies, but obviously that is a very jarring statement to hear from the GOP nominee.
It's also not the same tactic that we're seeing from the Republican National Committee. They put out their own statement today. It makes no mention of Donald Trump, and it really focuses in not just on terrorism, but also on the gun controls that President Obama and Hillary Clinton have both been pushing.
And in the RNC statement, they say: "The terrorists win when they convince politicians they should take away our rights. And that is exactly what President Obama and Hillary Clinton are proposing."
And, Jake, I think it's really stark to see the contrast between the two sides of the aisle today. You're really seeing Democrats create this echo chamber of pushing back against what Donald Trump has said. We're not seeing the same on the Republican side. We're not seeing Republicans flock to Donald Trump's defense. We're not seeing them defend his Muslim ban.
In fact, we have heard from a number of Republican leaders on the Hill today blasting that suggestion -- back to you.
TAPPER: All right, Sara Murray, thank you so much.
Let's bring in Mike Rogers, former Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He's also host of the CNN series "DECLASSIFIED," which debuts on Sunday night.
Congressman, thanks so much. Really appreciate it.
MIKE ROGERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Jake.
TAPPER: So, so many unprecedented things to discuss, but let's start with the notion of President Obama standing in the East Room blasting the Republican presidential nominee, presumptive nominee, basically suggesting that he's a threat to the nation. Do you have an issue with him doing that to begin with?
ROGERS: I think this -- he walks into the same territory that Donald Trump does when he makes these broad, sweeping claims about a complete ban on Muslims, and I think he's kind of necked that down to temporarily banning Muslims from countries where they are in trouble, Syria, other places. So, he's narrowed that down.
But having the president of the United States engage in this debate I think is not helpful, by the way.
TAPPER: Is not helpful to whom?
ROGERS: To the country. This is clearly designed to divide us.
This was the moment, I thought, could be a real moment for the president. We have the most tragic terrorist attack on the country since 9/11. And we have had a series of them, Chattanooga. We have had San Bernardino. Now we have Orlando. We had the Fort Hood shoot.
There has been a series and pattern here. This was a chance for the president to try to bring us together. I think he's so focused on this presidential campaign, he lets himself go. I just don't think it looked presidential. I don't think it was the right tactic for the president.
He should have come out from his national security team and talked about how we take away the permission slip that ISIS has given young men -- I don't care if they're immigrants or American citizens -- to do the things that they have done, including Orlando and San Bernardino.
We have to remove that permission slip in a way that means going after them where they recruit, where they train, where they govern in Eastern Syria and Western Iraq. We don't do that, all of this conversation is going to lead, I think, to more events.
TAPPER: Well, I think the president's point, just based on talking to some of his aides, was that he thinks that Donald Trump's rhetoric is actually pushing people into the arms of ISIS to become jihadists, to become self-radicalized, terrorists, homegrown, so that's why he did it. You don't think that's a concern?
ROGERS: Listen, I think these folks are -- they have a lot of other drivers on their sheet. Donald Trump is not one of them.
If -- and the president also talked about the Internet being this vital tool for radicalization and cause them to do that. It is a process. That is a tool for them. And so some notion that Donald Trump's comments are leading young men in America to do this is as bad as saying that President Obama wanted the shooting to happen.
I think both demean the office of the president. That's what I'm concerned about here, is you have Americans who are kind of stepping back, saying I don't -- something's wrong. We're not dealing with this in the right way. This is the second event in as many...
TAPPER: The jihadist threat.
ROGERS: The jihadist threat.
The fact that we have homegrown folks who are self-radicalizing in a way. And somebody said, listen, they're making up for all the other faults in their life. And as a former investigator, I can tell you that's true in just about most instances. But remember they're looking for some permission somewhere to do this.
He apparently got radicalized not only just online. He had some international travel, so the FBI is going to try to piece that together.
TAPPER: The Orlando shooter, yes.
ROGERS: Yes, the Orlando shooter.
And so they took all the things going on in his life, and it wasn't Donald Trump. It wasn't even President Obama. It was the notion that there is a group called ISIS that has these radical Islamic ideology that is promoting this kind of activity.
Remember, in the last six months, they have burned Yazidi women alive in cages because they wouldn't be sex slaves. They have thrown gays off the roofs of buildings and they took Christians out on the beach and beheaded them. That's the kinds of things that he was -- by the way, was looking at online.
That's the permission slip we need to take off the table. I wish the president would have come out and been commander in chief, not campaigner in chief today.
TAPPER: I want to play some sound of President Obama talking about his reluctance to use the term radical Islam. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: I don't have a problem calling it radical Islamic terrorism, but, then again, I'm not the leader of the free world. Is there an issue that you have with him not using the term or with George W. Bush before him not using the term?
ROGERS: I think the problem here and I think what Republicans see in this particular case is not necessarily the words. I think that's the focal point. That's what they talk about to describe what is lack of policy in Syria and Western Iraq. So, it's not the terms that so much bother me. It's the fact that he
really has not -- through this incrementalism, press release policy in Syria and the Middle East trying to make sure that we have a policy to dismantle it. He's called for its eradication. He's called for this disruption. He's called for the defeat of ISIS, but we don't see concrete plans.
And I think that's where this divide in the national security community that -- by the way, it's Republicans and Democrats as well -- where there is not a coherent policy that our allies in the region, our Sunni Arab partners understand clearly the Shia relationships we have don't understand, and that's where we get this confusion.
I think people focus on the fact that he won't say radical Islam, but the real problem is the philosophy behind his not wanting to use the term has resulted in some bad policy decisions in the Middle East.
TAPPER: All right, former Congressman, former Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers, thanks so much for joining us.
ROGERS: Thank you.
TAPPER: We appreciate it.
Turning now to the investigation in the Orlando terror attack and the terrorist's current wife, new questions about what she may have known about the attack and when she knew it.
[16:18:39] TAPPER: Welcome back.
We're back with a major development today in the Orlando terror investigation. Federal law enforcement officials are telling CNN that they're investigating what the terrorist's widow may have known about her husband's plans to shoot up the night club early Sunday morning, killing 49 people. They're also looking into the shocking news that the terrorist had frequented the gay nightclub and also had used a gay dating app.
CNN justice correspondent Pamela Brown is looking into the killer's timeline.
Pamela, what are you learning?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are a lot of investigative leads right now that the FBI is focused on, including these places where the FBI believes the gunman was casing in the weeks leading up to the shooting during gay celebrations here in Orlando. And also, the FBI is focused on the wife of this gunman and how much she knew about her husband's plans before the mass shooting.
BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, authorities believe the gunman's wife, Noor Salman, visited a potential target with her husband, in advance of the attack at Pulse nightclub. They're trying to determine if she knew he was planning an attack.
REPORTER: Did you know your husband was going to do this?
BROWN: Sources tell CNN she has been providing helpful insight to investigators.
For the first time, we're seeing inside the couple's apartment. Clothes and children's toys can be seen scattered on the ground.
[16:20:00] Investigators have seized items in searches of this home and those of the shooter's relatives, including a Dell computer, smartphone, digital camera and related media.
Sources tell CNN Omar Mateen was consuming large quantities of jihadi propaganda online, including ISIS beheading videos.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The killer took in extremist information and propaganda over the Internet. He appears to have been an angry, disturbed, unstable young man who became radicalized.
BROWN: As authorities piece together clues painting a picture of the shooter's life, CNN is learning more about his movements in the hours leading up to the attack. Investigators say they used cell phone tower data to determine that he spent several hours the day before the shooting at Disney Springs, a shopping and entertainment center in the Orlando area, before the attack at the Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning. Law enforcement sources tell CNN he also visited Disney Springs and the Pulse nightclub at the beginning of June. Investigators believe the visits were intended to conduct surveillance of the locations.
(on camera): What are you hearing in terms of the gunman hanging out prior to the shooting inside that club?
PATTY SHEEHAN, ORLANDO CITY COMMISSIONER: Yes, I was hearing that from some of the patrons that were there, that he had actually been in there hanging out. I'm like, wow, really?
BROWN (voice-over): A performer at Pulse nightclub tells CNN Mateen visited the club dozens of times, averaging a couple visits a month over three years. CNN has learned the FBI is now looking into claims Mateen was on gay dating apps such as Grindr. But it's unclear what his intentions were on those apps.
BROWN: And one official I spoke with today said that certainly changes the perspective, the fact that this gunman may have been on these gay dating apps, the fact that may have frequented the club dozens of times.
So, it seems as though there are a blend of motivations here, Jake, but officials have not reached any conclusions yet. They do still believe that he acted alone. The question is, did any of his family or friends have an idea of what he was up to and not tell authorities? That would be a crime -- Jake.
TAPPER: Pamela Brown, thank you so much.
With investigators now questioning the terrorist's wife, we're learning more about her. The big question, of course, as Pamela laid out, did she know anything about what her husband was about to do?
Let's bring in CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin.
Drew, do we know one way or another if the terrorist shared his plans with his wife before he went on his mad rampage?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Definitely, we do not. We only that according to a family source, she has been cooperating almost from the very beginning with investigators. Now, what investigators will only tell us is she has talked with them.
We have seen very little of her. In fact, last night, we only caught a glimpse of her returning to the condominium that she shared, along with a police officer. This condominium she shared with her husband, it looked like she was getting some personal items and then left, but she has made no appearance.
We've been trying to get answers from her family. But, Jake, at this time we're only following what we know from investigators that they are pursuing those angles of whether or not the husband shared his plans with the wife -- Jake.
TAPPER: And, of course, there would also be questions of not only knowing about it but if she helped him in any way in this mass shooting.
GRIFFIN: Yes, and legally that would be, you know, another step forward in another more dramatic turn for this woman.
Noor Salman's father-in-law of course lives right behind me. We asked him this question just about two hours ago when he came out on the street. This is what the father-in-law said about his daughter-in- law's involvement or lack of involvement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: Can we just ask one question related to the news that's broken? It is that Noor Salman is cooperating and that she has told police, the FBI, that she personally went on a trip to Orlando and brought your son to that club.
SADDIQUE MATEEN, TERRORIST'S FATHER: I don't know anything. I wait until they talk to her.
GRIFFIN: Did you hear she could be charged with a crime?
MATEEN: I don't know. I can't say anything.
GRIFFIN: Do you think that your daughter-in-law helped your son commit this crime? MATEEN: I don't think so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: Noor Salman, of course, Jake is the second wife of the shooter. The couple were married in 2011 in an Islamic ceremony near San Francisco. We know from that marriage certificate that Noor Salman's parents are Palestinian immigrants. She herself born and raised in California.
But the family and even the friends that we've been contacting have been very tight-lipped about how this couple got together, how they wed, what kind of courtship they had. It's been kind of mysterious to us as to how this guy here in Florida could marry that woman out in California and really nobody know too much about them -- TJake.
TAPPER: Very mysterious. Drew, thank you so much.
The director of the FBI just finished briefing members of the House on this terrorist attack.
[16:25:03] A member of the House Intelligence Committee was there and will tell us what he learned, coming up next.
Plus, more questions about who the terrorist really was after one man comes forward and says the gunman tried to pick him up on a gay dating app.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
American investigators are right now digging through the Orlando terrorist's background trying to determine what may have motivated Sunday's heinous attack and whether he may have had any help.
Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California. He serves on the House Select Committee on Intelligence.
Congressman, thanks so much for being here.
You were just briefed on the investigation by intelligence officials. What can you tell us?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: We're getting new information, Jake, right now. The FBI is doing a very good job right now looking at who was this individual. The key question is, was he self- radicalized? Was he an unstable individual who carried out this attack or is this something larger that was directed by ISIS?